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Lemon in Herbal Formulations Applied by Indigenous Tribesmen in India

Dr Deepak Acharya and Dr Anshu Shrivastava

Lemon (Citrus limon) is a well known member of the Rutaceae family. Though it originated in Asian countries such as Malaysia and India, today, it is cultivated worldwide. Lemon grows as a short, bushy and aromatic shrub. Its fruit is juicy and has few seeds. Lemon fruit can be used in any form, i.e. dry or fresh, ripe or mature. It is commonly known as Bara, Nimbu, Naranga, Nyomb and Limbu..Lemon has various culinary, therapeutic as well as medicinal properties.

The fruit is rich in vitamin C, which helps the body to fight off infections and also to prevent or treat scurvy (Grieve, 1984; Chevallier, 1996). Lemon juice is an astringent and is used as a gargle for throat problems (Grieve, 1984). Lemon juice is also a very effective bactericide (Chiej, 1984). It is also a good antiperiodic and has been used as a substitute for quinine in treating malaria and other fevers (Grieve, 1984). The stem bark is bitter, stomachic and tonic (Duke and Ayensu, 1985). Lemon is used in salad preparations, syrups, pickles and cosmetic products. It can be stored at room temperature for weeks or for months under refrigeration. About 100g of lemon provides 57 Kcal of energy. It contains carbohydrates (11g), proteins (1 g), Fats, (0.9 g), Vitamin C (39 mg), Magnesium (373 mg), Potassium (270 mg), Calcium (70 mg), Phosphorus (10 mg) and Fibers (1.7 g).

Known Uses of Lemon

lemon (66K)Lemon is effective against mild fevers, cold, stomach upsets, tooth disorders and certain skin problems. Lemon acts as an antioxidant due to its high vitamin C content. Lemon is preferably used in pickles, ice-creams, jams and jellies. A substance called pectin helps to set preparations like jams and jellies. Lemon slices are a popular addition to tea and cold drinks. Lemon improves the immune system by building up resistance against infection. For the treatment of dehydration and diarrhea, lemon juice makes a good base for oral electrolyte solution. It may be attributed to its potassium and other mineral content. According to a study, lemon juice relives rheumatism. Lemon contains oils that stimulate the liver to expel toxins from the body. Some studies show that lemon may be effective in the treatment of blood cancer and may also be used as a general anti-cancer agent. Lemon juice is used for treating certain afflictions of the skin, thanks to its acidic nature.

Traditional Herbal Knowledge about Lemon

Indian tribesmen utilize this plant in various therapeutic preparations. Local healers known as Bhumkas (in Patalkot valley of Central India) and Bhagats (in Dangs of South Gujarat) prepare various herbal remedial formulations to cure various health ailments.

For suppressing male skin hair growth
A combination of False Saffron (Carthamus tinctorius) seed oil, Bengal Gram (Cicer arietinum) flour, Wheat (Triticum aestivum) flour, Lemon juice and honey is prepared. This combination can be used as a face pack and applied twice a week. The paste should be allowed to dry over the face as a pack, and, when dry, again slightly wetted, rub it and wash it off. Regular application of this formulation checks the hair growth on facial skin after some time (Acharya and Shrivastava, 2008).

A pinch of Turmeric (Curcuma longa) powder, one teaspoon of milk cream, mixed with half a teaspoon of Lemon juice, makes an excellent poultice. It helps in ripening the blood boils and in their healing without allowing them to become septic.

Constipation, Cough and Obesity
To a glassful of drinking water, add 10 drops of Lemon fruit juice, and add a teaspoonful honey to it. This should be taken twice a day for an effective remedy for constipation, colds and obesity.

Cut Ginger into small pieces and dip it in 50 ml water that contains 10 drops of Lemon fruit juice. Add pinch of black salt and leave it for two hours. It can be used to relieve indigestion and constipation.

In case of indigestion, Garlic (Allium sativum) buds (4 nos.), Ginger (Zingiber officinale) rhizome (2g), Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) fresh leaves (1g), Jaggery (unrefined sugar) (5g), Chilli (Capsicum annuum) (1/2g) and Lemon fruit juice (10 drops) are taken and mixed thoroughly. It should be taken along with meals.

Insufficient bowel movement
Squeeze one lemon in a glassful of lukewarm water and add a pinch of black salt. Have it twice a day. This formulation helps in improving bowel movement.

Lemon juice can be added to Multani Mitti (Fuller's earth) and Sandal (Santalum album) wood power to prepare a paste. This can be applied over face to get rid of excess oil that causes acne.

Skin Toner
Rub Lemon fruit peel over dark areas of the skin such as ankle and knee, lightens the skin.

Hair Conditioning and Dandruff cure
Squeeze half a lemon in water (1 liter) and apply it on hair. Rinse properly after 3 minutes. It works as a conditioner and also helps in removing dandruff and dead skin.

Take 50 ml curd and add 1 teaspoon Lemon juice to it. Rub it all over the scalp. Rinse hair after 15 minutes. It alleviates dandruff.

Fractured Bones
In Patalkot, tribals prepare a formulation to cure fractured bones. Mixture of Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root powder, Indian Madder (Rubia cordifolia) leaf powder and Lemon fruit juice are taken in equal proportion. Butter (10g), Rice (Oryza sativa) flour (5g) is added to it. The paste is applied over the fractured bone.

Ethnic tribesmen prepare Lemon pickle which is a well known appetizer and also helps to relieve nausea.

Acharya, D. and Shrivastava, A. 2008.
Indigenous Herbal Medicines: Tribal Formulations and Traditional Herbal Practices. Aavishkar Publishers Distributors, Jaipur. ISBN 978-81-7910-252-7.
Chevallier, A. 1996.
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Dorling Kindersley. London. ISBN 9-780751-303148.
Chiej, R. 1984.
Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald. ISBN 0-356-10541-5.
Duke, JA, Ayensu, ES. 1985.
Medicinal plants of China. Reference Publications, Inc. Algonac, Michigan, 1985.
Grieve, M. 1984.
A Modern Herbal. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-046-440-9.

About the authors

Dr Deepak Acharya (MSc PhD) is Director, Abhumka Herbal Pvt Limited. He can be reached at deepak at or deepak at For more information about him, please visit and

Dr Anshu Shrivastava (MSc PhD) is Scientist, Product Development at Abhumka Herbal Pvt Limited, contact him at anshu at or ansh24 at

For questions or comments email:

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